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Community report

Brandon: Fundraiser brings out stargazers

Celebrities gather to golf, raise money for charity and leave their young caddies star-struck.

By JAY CRIDLIN
Published February 13, 2004

How big a star is Derek Jeter?

Ulf Andersson has only lived in the United States for six months. Yet even he couldn't resist sneaking an autograph from the New York Yankees megastar.

"Baseball is not a big sport in Sweden," explained Andersson, a Swedish exchange student and golfer at Durant High School. "But since I came here, I really like it."

Andersson landed the plum assignment of caddying for Jeter at Monday's inaugural Beth Bauer Celebrity Pro-Am Classic at Riverhills Golf and Country Club in Valrico.

He wasn't the only local stargazer in sight. A host of students, residents and business owners hobnobbed with celebrities during the tournament, part of the Greater Brandon Charity Golf Classic.

Among the stars in attendance were former major leaguers Wade Boggs and Joe Niekro; Buccaneers Shelton Quarles and Anthony McFarland; and pro golfers Dawn Coe-Jones and Debra Richard.

"We definitely made a profit," said Arlene Waldron, treasurer of the Greater Brandon Community Foundation. "We are already talking about next year, lining people up."

Helping to run the show was Beth Bauer, a Bloomingdale High School graduate and former LPGA Rookie of the Year.

"For our first try, I think we did a pretty good job," Bauer said. "We're hoping to do this every year."

Scoring celebrities like Jeter was a good start. The all-star shortstop said he was simply repaying a favor.

"Beth came to my tournament, so I had the opportunity to come back and help her," he said.

Most of the caddies were, like Andersson, local high school golfers.

Alina Blankenship, who graduated early from Brandon High School, asked the LPGA's Angela Jerman for advice about playing professionally.

"Tips on how I should play, what I should do to practice - anything to help me get on the tour," Blankenship said.

Others used the event to collect autographs. Brandon High's Maggie Stutzman lugged around a tournament shirt signed by Jeter, Quarles and Bucs Shaun King and Todd Yoder.

Newsome High School's Bobby Dyer, one of the county's top amateurs, hoped to exchange advice on the Riverhills course for free baseball tickets from his partner, reigning Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays.

At the ninth tee, caterers from Crofton and Sons Inc. in Brandon doled out free beer and smoked sausage to the pros in hopes that they'd sign a sheet of posterboard in their tent.

Local business leaders who played in the tournament laughed it up with the celebrities.

"I'm having a great time," said Brandon Regional Hospital CEO Mike Fencel after giving swing tips to the LPGA's Val Skinner. After putting on the seventh, Jeter stopped to sign autographs and pose for a photo with Melissa Davis of Tampa and Becky Grant of Brandon.

"Just don't tell anyone about my shot," Jeter said, referring to a drive that landed well short of the par-three green.

"Oh, we won't tell," said a giddy Grant. "You made a hole-in-one."

- Jay Cridlin can be reached at 661-2442 or cridlin@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 13:05:52]

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